Forget Resolutions. Try New Years Experiments
Our lives get better when we acknowledge the nuance
Happy New Year! Has everything gone exactly as you’ve imagined it would so far?
Just a reminder that you can “wipe the slate clean” whenever you want. I totally read somewhere that Ernest Hemingway thought that anybody who is anybody starts their year on January 8th.
After running Caveday for 7 years, I don’t really believe in new year’s resolutions. It rarely converts into sustainable fuel.
The real skill that makes the difference is learning to notice, explore, experiment, and make meaning of new possibilities.
Rather than resolutions, I like time-bound experiments. Below are some bits of inspiration and a few of my experiments:
Thanks for reading Or maybe... ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
James Clear is Fairly Clear
Why is Atomic Habits is consistently on the top of the NY Times Best Seller list? Because we’re desperate for anything that might work better than a placebo. The book has some inspiring quotes, helpful frameworks and interesting tidbits. You can get most of it by reading Derek Sivers’ summary here.
But of course, no self-help book can actually help. Otherwise, we’d all have awakened the Giant Within by The Secret Power of NOW years ago.
The best it can do is inspire you to play a different inner game and give you something to hold onto while you do.
I’ve run an accountability program at Caveday for many years. Many participants have read it and here is what I’ve seen stick:
The most powerful lever for adding a habit is making it part of your identity
Habit Stacking - Do new habits when you do existing habits.
Don’t miss a habit twice - it’s the start of a new habit
The Golden Algorithm
The most helpful framework I’ve come across lately is The Golden Algorithm by the executive coach Joe Hudson. Whatever you’re avoiding has a feeling associated with it, and you’re likely to feel that way whether you do the task or avoid the task.
Example: If I’m avoiding sending an email, I’m scared that it’s not going to go well. [I’m feeling fear.] And if I don’t send it, I still fear because I know the impact of not sending it grows with every day I procrastinate.
The way out, according to Joe, is to befriend the emotion and move through it as quickly as possible on the way to doing what you know you really want to do. The emotion is part of you. Might as well befriend it!
One New Habit is Really Two
Any new resolution is actually two resolutions: the “external goal” and “the internal game.” Most people ignore the internal game. I’ve found a lot of success using the golden algorithm to create a secondary metric that allows me to move through the emotion quicker.
Outer Habit: I’m going to do 100 pushups a day, 5x a week
Inner Habit: I’m trying to avoid the physical sensation of pain. If I think to do pushups but avoid it, I can choose to free write about it for five minutes. After a few times, that becomes boring, so I just do the pushups.
As the world has turned inward, it’s easier to assume that those connections are gone and that your world is in fact now smaller. I’m finding it meaningful to push back on that assumption. Here’s one small way:
I’ve collected thousands of contacts in my phone, most of which I have no idea who they are. Once a day, I scroll with my eyes closed and pick someone to say hello to. If they respond, I get to have a convo I wouldn’t have had. If they don’t, they get deleted. Here’s the template I use:
“Name! I’m doing a little thing for January I call “contact roulette.” I scroll with my eyes closed and pick someone in my phone at random and say hello and you wouldn’t believe it, but today you won! [Question i.e. how the heck are ya? Where did you end up in life? What’s something you appreciate these days?] or [Memory: Remember when we did _____?]
End of the Day Protocol
If you’re a recovering overachiever or card-carrying member of capitalism, you probably have feelings at the end of the day based on how you did.
When someone asks you “How was your day?” … what protocol are you running?
“It was … okay?”
“I got some stuff done”
“My teammate was so annoying.”
“I’m worried about this thing.”
“It went too quickly”
We are also cognitively biased to remember the end of our day and the worst moment. Unless you finished something amazing at 5pm, this can set you up to color your day negatively.
A new thing I’m trying is coming up with End of Day Checklist Protocols that are aligned with my values.
Day with lots of Obligations
☑ Did these obligations help maintain relationships that are important to me?
☑ Did I find a moment for myself?
☑ Did I notice something beautiful?
☑ Did I bring positive energy to something I could have been negative about?
Day with some Obligations
☑ Did I do something bold? Did I zag where I could zig?
☑ Did I make progress on my most important task?
☑ Did I do something risky/vulnerable?
☑ Did I listen to my intuition?
☑ Did I learn something?
☑ Was I in my body?
☑ Did I talk to a friend?
How do you make meaning of your days?
PS: If you’re looking for an external boost that isn’t just talk, we’ve got a Caveday sale running for a few more days. We host 20+ hours a day of guided focus sessions, planning workshops, and accountability groups. Members report they get more done in less time and feel happier while they do it.